MAYFIELD - The Mayfield Lady Panthers roared back from a 13-point halftime deficit to slip past the Fort Plain Lady Hilltoppers 45-44 Tuesday in the opening game of the season for both teams.
"We got hurt with our lack of depth," said Fort Plain head coach Phil Karker. "It's finally catching up to us having short numbers."
It was truly a two-girl show for Fort Plain (0-1) Tuesday, something that worked beautifully for one half of play.
Mayfield’s Cailey Meca steals the ball from Fort Plain’s Soren Shirley during Tuesday’s Western Athletic Conference game at Mayfield. (The Leader-Herald/Shaun Anich)
Reigning WAC North MVP Abby Boyer and Briannah Florian bullied their way to the basket frequently in the first two quarters. The duo combined for 24 of Fort Plain's 26 first half points.
Mayfield (1-0) got off to a slow start. Their first points came with 3:29 remaining in the first quarter when sophomore starter Julie Hampton banked a three-pointer. Alex Sheldon scored six points in the quarter for Mayfield and the Lady Panthers were able to overcome a bevy of travels to capture a 9-8 lead.
Boyer and Florian took over the game in the second quarter. After an early jumper by Mayfield's Lyndsey Barber gave Mayfield an 11-10 lead, Boyer and Florian combined for eight straight Fort Plain points.
Mayfield mustered only four points in the quarter, while Boyer and Florian registered 10 and six points, respectively. Turnovers were a major concern for the Panthers in the half.
"We had close to 20 turnovers and that's a hard one to overcome," said Mayfield head coach Brian Moore. "The girls came at halftime and said we're just not playing to our potential."
Mayfield's defensive intensity picked up in the second half. Cailey Meca interrupted the passing lane often and disrupted Fort Plain's offensive movement. The Lady Panthers held the Lady Hilltoppers to nine points in the quarter, while Miranda Eagan provided a spark from downtown for Mayfield. Eagan hoisted up three three-pointers, all from the same spot, and all three went down as part of a 10-3 Mayfield run.
"When she knocked down those threes we really started to pull back in the game," said Moore. "That's one of the things I'm looking for is for her to get up three to four three-pointers a game and she was fortunate to knock down three."
Mayfield outscored Fort Plain 16-9 in the quarter and trailed 35-29 when the buzzer sounded.
Mayfield's solid defense continued into the final stanza. Kaylee Bumpus scored four quick points for the Lady Panthers as Boyer and the Lady Hilltoppers struggled to find a consistent rhythm.
With Fort Plain leading 40-38, Hampton nailed her second three-pointer of the contest to give Mayfield its first lead since 9-8 at the start of the second quarter. Kendra Trembley converted an easy layup on Fort Plain's next trip down to retake the lead. The field goal was the first of the game for Fort Plain by someone other than Boyer or Florian.
With 22 seconds remaining in regulation, Bumpus found space under the rim and made an easy layup to put Mayfield up 43-42. After Florian missed two free throws, Hampton nailed two to give Mayfield a three-point lead. Trembley then muscled her way into the lane for Fort Plain and scooped the ball up and in while drawing the foul but missed the ensuing free throw. Mayfield evaded the Fort Plain defense in the final seconds to sew up their first win of the young season.
Sheldon led the way for Mayfield with 11 points, while Hampton and Eagan combined for five threes and 20 points. Boyer finished with 22 points and Florian finished with 16 points for the Lady Hilltoppers.
"[Boyer] was just a battle," said Moore. "Our players were scrapping and fighting as hard as they could just to get in front of her. She's a really good player and our girls gave it all they had to be able to defend her."
Moore and the Lady Panthers can take pleasure in knowing they accomplished something Tuesday that no WAC team did in the 2012-13 season: beat Fort Plain. The Lady Hilltoppers finished undefeated in league play last year and 16-3 overall during the regular season.
"It definitely feels good," said Moore. "Our girls have had a heck of a preseason and a heck of an offseason. They've been working really hard and we're really building toward the right direction."
Mayfield will take to the road on Friday to match up against the Canajoharie Lady Cougars at 7:30 p.m.
Mayfield 45, Fort Plain 44
Fort Plain 8 18 9 9 - 44
Mayfield9 4 16 16 - 45
Hampton 2-4-10, Sheldon 4-3-11, Barber 1-0-2, Geier 0-2-2, Meca 2-0-4, Eagan 3-1-10, Bumpus 3-0-6. Totals 15-10-45.
Boyer 7-8-22, Florian 7-2-16, Shirley 0-2-2, Trembley 2-0-4. Totals 16-12-44.
3-point goals: Mayfield 5 (Eagan 3, Hampton 2)